Frederic of Coninck Letters
Anticipation and disappointment regarding Manon's visit; Another appeal to Daniel;
Pierre Testart of Amsterdam gets involved; Birth of a boy, Francois de Coninck; persecution in France intensifies
9 January 1698
Monsieur Joseph de Coninck
I saw the letter that you wrote my sister on the subject of the death of my aunt, your mother, after a brief illness. We learned with extreme sorrow this sad news and it is to inform you of our awareness that I take the honor of writing you this. You lose a good mother and I in particular lose a good aunt who always expressed to me a lot of affection everytime I had the privilege to meet her. I hoped to have that benefit again, but providence has deemed otherwise.
I pray God with all my heart that it pleases Him to send you the consolations which you need at this time, and that He keeps you and blesses you abundantly. I, along with other relations, take the liberty to greet you most humbly. I pray that you grant me the continuation of your friendship and wish you to believe that if ever I can be of service to you I will do it wholeheartedly, knowing that no one can be more than I am...
23 January 1698
Mademoiselle Marie Oursel
We received with much joy, mademoiselle, my very dear sister, your welcome letter of the first day of the year. We thank you from the bottom of our heart for your good wishes and especially for the obliging manner in which you accepted our wish to have you be the godmother, and for speedily preparing for the trip. Although it will be during an unpleasant season and consequently have inconveniences, I confess that I'm indeed sensitive to this expression of your affection. I will add this gesture as being in your debt. If I could spare you the...
weariness of travel by postponing it to a more beautiful season and have my wife deliver her baby in the month of June, I would do so with all my heart, but unfortunately that isn't possible. One must conform to the orders of nature! All we can do on this occasion is to pray for the least possible inconvenience to yourself, and if you can't be here for the birth of the baby, to delay the ceremony if the baby is doing well until you arrive. I fear that you might not be able to come in the company of our uncle du Chemin [Dr. Pierre du Chemin, husband of Esther Crommelin, Catherine's younger sister]. Apparently his affairs do not coincide as much as he hoped. I would be quite disappointed because he's such a nice man.
You haven't told me whether you will be travelling on the ground or by sea. Perhaps you would be less tired going by sea; you would spend less time enroute and especially you would have to pay less. But perhaps I'm being anxious in vain, since if you are refused a passport you would have to stay there and we would have to resort to a proxy. Even the thought bothers me. I have good hope that with the help of your friends you will be able to get one especially if you mention that you need it for business.
One must admit that the zeal of a persecutor is a strange one since he is able to oppress everyone and do whatever he wants to achieve his goal. But God is over all. He didn't want to bring about our deliverance by the hand of men. Undoubtedly He wants to reserve that glory for Himself. Perhaps it will happen when we least expect it. We have news here that there is more persecution than ever in several provinces of the kingdom. A short time ago Mr. Basnage made pastoral letters about all the 15 days when persecution was redoubled. You will see them when you get here.
I almost forgot to mention that the godfather who I intend to have with you is Mr. Isaac Torin, our relative. [The second child of Esther Crommelin and her first husband, Jean Torin.] He is fond of good living and I hope that he will be much more agreeable to you than the last one. If you remember your Flemish one, you'll see that I'm right.
I'm not returning to you the letter of our uncle Jacob to save on postage. I'll give it back to you in person. Apparently he doesn't count us as part of the family, not having written our sister or me. Nevertheless when I know that the sale has been concluded, I'll remind him of that fact.
Regarding our uncle Daniel, I'm not afraid to say that he behaves as the most dishonest man in the world. I don't have any news since he's never written me except once a few years ago. Nevertheless I haven't stopped writing, nor will I stop writing him, and I'll pursue him as much as I possibly can. I told him so many things and turned him in so many directions that if he had even a little bit of conscience he would have become reasonable a long time ago. I mentioned quite emphatically that I absolutely don't want the assets in question in my hands. I told him several times to have him remit it to our cousin Pierre Testart in Amsterdam who promised me that he would buy government bonds on the province of Holland which is the most secure thing in the world. I indeed fear that the said Mr. Crommelin will consume it all and that all my efforts are in vain. One must admit that our poor brother Oursel left himself duped in the world's most sordid manner by making the executor of his will a man of such bad faith, also vain, and of such small capacity. Please remember the copy which I spoke to you about.
I believe that monsieur, your father, should take steps to promptly get rid of this affair with Vanasseur and Durand since we know not the hour nor the day when God will withdraw his protection. It would be vexatious if he still had something to control, so the sooner the better.
My wife has become quite big in her pregnancy which is to say, always awkward. She looks forward to the time when she can put this burden down. She greets you wholeheartedly. We await you with anticipation, hoping that this will be the last letter I will write you, and that your reply will inform us when you expect to leave and be underway. There is no [R.C.] chapel of the rosary here should it be your intention, and to speak in a Christian way, we will pray and wish for your safe arrival. If you make the trip by sea, I can know when you will travel up our river. Although our fine city is somewhat elongated, I will await your passage so that when you make harbour I'll be amongst the first to express how perfectly I am...
22 February 1698
Monsieur Daniel Crommelin
I wrote you not long ago on the 13th of last December. I have since received your letter of July 12 1697. It is the second one I've received in response to a rather large number that I've written you on the subject of the assets in question belonging to my nieces de Coninck. I admit that I wasn't able to read your letter without a little emotion because you made so many conditions with regard to your discharge that it scares me, and only when they reached a million...
did you stop taking any further precautions. Nevertheless after re-reading your letters, it seems to me that you soften somewhat and that you resolve at last to grant us our request.
I aim to dispossess you of what you have in your hands by having Mr. Camin and I acting as joint guarantors in lifting the said assets. I admit that regarding the benefits of this we are nearly agreed. I told you by my previous letters and those of others that I don't in any way want to have these monies in my possession and I know of no relative who wishes to deal with it either. Thus for your great assurance I told you to remit the money to my cousin Pierre Testart who had the goodness to assure me that he would buy government bonds on the Province of Holland with all the necessary precautions. I ask you, monsieur my uncle, which of the above guarantors you would like - who would be the most assured in the said province. If he has to act on a million things rather than just a few, you want to be able to rest easy. But to assure you that we are well intentioned, as soon as my said cousin will have invested the said money as I have just said, and if you still wish some other act for extra assurance of a discharge, Mr. Testart being a prudent man and fully engaged in this affair, we will pass by him everything that he will deem pertinent, fully expecting that you will do the same on your side.
I don't doubt that you will consent to this and will execute promptly the proposition that I make if indeed you wish people to believe that you are sincere in your plans to render justice to the two orphans, rather than thinking the opposite should you again give birth to further obstacles. Meanwhile time and years go by when nothing is done as one is preoccupied with one thing or another.
You make me say things in your letter which I never thought of as, for example, that I told you that you must not expect any indemnity of the relatives for the delay of the said latter things - something I never meant and am far from intending. It also seems you don't want to believe that I was opposed to my brother Robert when he carried away with him to Jamaica the assets of these two young girls. God knows if I didn't do it with the last bit of vigor I could muster as proved by ample evidence. I looked upon it as a thing incomprehensible and cruel. The truth is that the aforementioned Robert only looked out for himself in dispossessing the children and then he didn't quickly return it to this country as if he were mocking me. He didn't even want to reply to me to advantage and merely left the above as if he were on his way to conquer Peru and make himself a fortune worthy of a prince. Furthermore it isn't difficult to perceive why you would return to this thing. This reproach isn't supportable and I responded to him before rather clearly. I will say to you once and for all that if my brother Robert had done poorly, this does not authorize you to do the same.
You say again that what I have done since for these children is forced charity. That effectively turns the natural feelings upside down. Another would undoubtedly say to me that what I do for them is a very Christian thing, but since I can't maintain them for nothing and since you have their assets, is it a crime to ask for it again, and wouldn't it be reasonable to have it returned, contrary to what you reproach me for? Furthermore I have all the relatives on my side so that no one can imagine how you have stalled so many times and that so many appeals were necessary for a thing that you would be obliged to do anyway. Since the said children are to live and die in this country it is reasonable that their assets are here also. My late mother and I are also two closer relations of them than you. You have our instructions that must be obeyed namely that you hand it back immediately as I told you before, after which my cousin Testart will arrange your discharge. We will abide by whatever he judges appropriate and I hope the year will not pass away before you have actioned it.
It will please you to invoke the necessary insurance before you expect to send back the said assets. About 6 weeks ago Mr. Francois de la Chambre told me that the insurance between your place and London was at this time 6%, and between London and New York it is 4% and that the best return would be to send it in 8 parts along with good merchandise in which it could not be lost. I hope that you will hasten as soon as possible because this matter has been dragging on for such a long time. Please consider where we would be if God happened to dispose of you. This will also be the only way to stop me from pestering you because as long as this matter remains outstanding I cannot help myself from registering my complaints through my letters. I will leave no stone unturned and will employ all manner of legitimate ways on this subject. My conscience obliges me to do so but I hope your justice will not cause us to languish so much.
Besides, monsieur, my uncle, I see that you complain about me having written you too strongly. If I have offended you, I'm very sorry. This isn't my intention at all. I ask you to excuse me if in my...
previous letters there sometimes escaped from me some terms that were a little irritating. I have the misfortune to be a little forthright but I'm not at all devious. I've written you several letters with urgent pleadings as honestly as it's possible for me to be seeing that I could not have responded without being forceful on how you strive to embarass me and create difficulties, no doubt intending in the meantime to enjoy this money as it would be very easy for me to prove. Seeing, I say, this behaviour bothered me. I dare even to say that when it will please you to do some serious reflection as to what I've been asking you, you will undoubtedly acknowledge that I'm right. Even more so considering that you even wrote that this money was safe in your hands provided that nothing extraordinary happened. Well, something extraordinary can happen every day. This is ridiculous. You have no charity and risk so little while the children have their property in another world. In order for you to return this at once safely to this country, please give notice via various vessels and take out the necessary insurance. I say again that you cannot refuse to put these assets in the hands of a third person under the conditions that I have proposed above. If you don't do it, I protest your conduct all over again, and you won't prevent the very world from believing (under the guise of charity which cloak your works) many things in which you show no honor. You are also the reason I can't maintain and raise these children as I could if their assets were here. If I ever get blamed for that one day, you are the only one responsible.
Furthermore, to spare you the trouble of re-sending this letter to my relations and yours, I'm sending it open [ie. un-sealed] under their cover so that they can judge for themselves which of us two is right. Thus you pass before them sooner and show how you've cheated me from a distance. So pay attention. I regard this as the licentiousness of an uncle who wasn't considerate of others. However, far from having you think ill of me, I would rather pray that you don't alienate your heart against me and to always regard me kindly as one of your good nephews who had the honour to be your guest once upon a time. I therefore ask for the continuation of your friendship and pray once more that you expedite immediately the request that I make without further delay and without invoking any new difficulties. In doing so, you will also be executing the will of my late brother Robert who, in making you the executor of his will, authorized you to collect the effects of his nieces in order that it be returned to them safely afterward at a suitable place - not with the intention of having you keep it.
The things spoken of here are the same. If you do it, everyone will be pleased and you will persuade the public that what you did was only in the best interests of the children. I pray God that it pleases Him to protect you and shower you with His blessings. I am...
[Addition to the letter of Mr. Daniel Crommelin that I wrote him on 22 February.
(This Postscript was added about March 10, 1698 after Frederic had heard back from Pierre Testart.)]
PS - I communicated this letter to Mr. Testart who strongly shares my opinion. He promised me that he would write you and that he would do his utmost to have you carry out what Mr. Camin and I ask, regarding which here attached I'm sending you a letter. My uncle Jacob, your brother, has also written you on the same subject according to what I've been told. I know that my aunt du Chemin did so before, so there have been plenty of appeals not counting the ones which my mother made to you.
Is it possible that you will not allow yourself to be persuaded and that you will always stop yourself by searching out and switching to certain new conditions to which I have already responded and which should have satisfied you? Nevertheless you always return loaded with more and you, so to speak, put a knife to my throat by forcing me to accept a guardianship that will overwhelm me someday by the continual vexations which they could face. These two girls have claims that a half century of legal wrangling wouldn't be able to resolve. What really matters is that there be a guardian in the forms provided; that their money is secure; and that you receive a discharge. What I propose to you is so just, and so equitable, and so strongly to your advantage that one cannot conceive that you can find fault with it. As your excuse you mention the conduct that the messieurs of Haarlem take with respect to you, but besides that I can perhaps find the difference. If what I ask of you were in their hands I would be very happy. Instead you wish to keep it in a lost country and subject to many risks of your own making. Meanwhile these poor children are reduced to living off the charity of their relatives. Ah! monsieur my uncle, don't even think about it! Recall your natural generosity and show us and everyone your compassion and that what you have done was solely out of charity. In God's name drop these rigid conditions that you demand from me and don't treat me like a villain.
Accept instead the reasonable proposition that I have made you. All the relatives plead for this. This must have been more than sufficient to make you aquiesce, and you can rest assured that you will have every satisfaction that you could ask for. I hope that you will not delay in informing us when you expect to make the exchange that you will please divide in eight parts amongst substantially good merchandise requested for London so that one can take every necessary insurance precaution possible. This method will minimize any risk and do everything with a maximum of safety. I pray God that He motivates you and strengthens you in these good sentiments so that this thing will be accomplished and won't have to be mentioned again in the future.
22 February 1698
Monsieur Pierre Testart
I'm sending you the attached letter for New York in response to another one that you took the trouble to send me. I send it to you 'open' so that you can judge the differences that I have with our uncle Daniel Crommelin regarding his returning sincerely and graciously to this country what he holds belonging to my nieces de Coninck - something he should have done several years ago in accordance with what my late mother and others pleaded him to do immediately. Instead of that he only looks for ways to trick and embarass me despite all that I was able to write him regarding the above which would have satisfied anyone other than him. He noted on all occasions a strong craving to keep this money. In the beginning he requested that he keep it until threre was peace [between France and the Anglo-Dutch alliance] with the excuse that the insurance would have been too high during the war. Afterwards he said that he wished to marry these girls to his sons [Charles and Isaac] and make them his daughters-in-law. These are his terms.
Now he's made a mountain of difficulties regarding his so-called discharge. Meanwhile the years go by as he goes on asking for it without even troubling himself to inquire whether these children have the means to live or not. The will of my late brother Oursel mentioned only to whom his effects belonged and authorized my said uncle to collect them with the intention of having the net amount returned to this country where the children reside, as common sense and prudence would dictate. It seems that he's about to override my brother Oursel by taking the money with him. No doubt he can make use of it also. I responded to him several times so clearly regarding the above that I can't understand how he can still hesitate. Besides, monsieur my cousin, since you are generous...
DSC_6934.JPG and DSC_6935.JPG
I hope that you are still of the same sentiments that you expressed to me before, knowing that you indeed wish to see the money returned in order to have it placed in government bonds in the province of Holland which is undoubtedly a better guarantor than giving it to our uncle. If after that he is still not happy, we will proceed with whatever instructions you insist upon if he doesn't want to accept the offer that I made him. This, then, will be an indication that he doesn't want to return justice to us. I regret asking for this favour but I put forward this effort for good reason. I implore that you indeed would like to write him. A word in your own hand would do much to carry out what we ask. Do that, please, for the sake of these poor orphans who have no other goods in the world. In doing that you would be doing a charitable work - a meritous one if ever there was one - and you would also restore harmony to the family. As for me in particular, I would be eternally in your debt.
If I wrote my uncle a little strongly, this was not at all with the intention of offending him directly but only in order to have him carry out quickly what I asked him to do. I did that regretfully after writing him several of the most honest letters in the world, not counting the ones from my mother. Then I had plenty of trouble getting a response, and that again which came with a certain air of haughtiness, always with refusals and detours that all too apparently express his desire not to be dispossessed of what he holds which I feared had been too long. I will even prove it to you by his last letter although in appearance it seems more reasonable than his previous one. Therefore if he doesn't want to deal with this matter I can't see how he can complain about me in the future.
I could produce a letter that a wise and serious person wrote me some time ago regarding the schemes and conduct of our said uncle when he arrived at Jamaica. Undoubtedly you would be astonished. He should have behaved as a father regarding our differences, not merrily concocting tricky difficulties which do him no honor. What I proposed to him is most reasonable and it contains enough instructions for him to remit the money to this country. He can do it safely having been given in time the advice necessary to take out proper insurance. Please, I bid you once more, monsieur my cousin, to help us in this matter and to support us in our request. Your exortations will carry great weight. Praying that you are persuaded that I am perfectly...
3 March 1698
Monsieur Pierre Testart
I returned yesterday from Rotterdam where I saw Mr. Camin who gave me the letter that he wrote me on the 23rd of last month. It contains an extract of a letter from our uncle Daniel which reinforces more and more the opinion I hold that he has no intention to return justice to me regarding the differences I have with him. I am not alone in this opinion because you must take what he says with a grain of salt. He looks for so many excuses and so many detours under the shadow of his discharge that the biggest trickster in the universe couldn't cram in more conditions one way or another than he has. I am persuaded that whenever I accept what he asks for, he will always find something else that hasn't been explained well enough according to his fantasy, and to which he will find some objections to make. What he wrote you about it is only to cast dust in your eyes as the proverb made by the good apostle says.
He gives birth to difficulties on all things. This may be alright to say to the Iroquois [native Indians in North America] but not to people with common sense. When he wanted my aunt, his wife, to get hold of money [for her voyage to New York], he managed to do this alright even during war time. So why can't he return it at present when the risks are four times less?! He has only to send it in 8 parts without bothering to frighten us as he does over the risk of loss. If he had acted out of a pure motive, he would have from the beginning returned the money to a suitable place in a secure manner in order to draw from it a reasonable interest. This is all that I asked for. Instead he prefers to have the privilege of holding it without troubling himself over how it can vanish in a hundred different ways and, frankly, I fear that the obstacles which he raises do not stem from his inability to make restitution from where he is.
I pleaded to have him send me a copy of the nice will [of Robert Oursel Jr.] behind which he hides but he refused, and when it would be what he seemed to suggest, I would always say that it's a testament declared by poor Robert Oursel who had been duped and that it would have been better to let him die in peace. Even if I didn't love my nieces like they were my own children I wouldn't desecrate his body, and the love I have for their interest as shown through my letters declares that I behaved like a veritable father and an honest man. And if Mr. Crommelin wishes to pay for it, I will even have them published in order to make them public thereby saving him the trouble of sending them back to this country so that others may see them. I assure you that this matter is close to my heart. Perhaps if I were single Mr. Crommelin would not mock me...
like he does. I see it in various places. Now he would return justice to them or me simply by dying. Excuse my little fit of anger, but he has caused me grief through his quibbling and it's said that 'one who loses his goods, loses his blood'. So I cannot do otherwise and I leave it to God to exact His vengeance since He declares Himself to be the father of orphans.
Furthermore, to show you that I am like a worm who can't turn around in the jar, I declare that I have mentioned previously to the said monsieur that if he persists in wanting to have a guardian appointed, then this would only be an indication that he doesn't want to render justice to us. I gave him the reasons which are that my nieces have expectations which come through their father, mother and grandmother. There will be lawsuits which cannot come to an end in 4 generations. This matter has been formally discussed at The Hague. Thus you see that it would be treacherous and to voluntarily put a rope around one's own neck even to accept such a guardianship. Nevertheless despite all that I was able to say to him about the above, he always retorts with an illogical opinion, undoubtedly because he knows that it's a thing which can't be done. Thus you see clearly that all the obstacles that he gives birth to are merely excuses to keep the money in question. To lift these phoney difficulties I proposed to you that our uncle remit to you the latter to have it placed on the province of Holland, a guarantor which is a more secure than all the guardians in the world, and that for his discharge you would be the arbiter.
Regarding the risks of the sea, it isn't necessary to turn them into the monster which he portrays since by taking precautions and making the necessary insurance, I don't see that there's the least danger to run. Everyone finds my suggestion very just and very reasonable and Mr. Camin is sending me a letter tomorrow for our uncle on this subject to put with mine which I will send by another vessel unless you want to have it sent along with your packet. Meanwhile, since you can do much in this matter, this will be a big boon that you will be doing for the girls if you are willing to take the trouble to write in their favor according to what I said to you in my last letter...
10 March 1698
Monsieur Pierre Testart
Only yesterday evening I received your letter of March 5. I am greatly encouraged and thank you with all my heart for the trouble you took to write our uncle on the subject of our differences. I hope that your appeals plus those from our uncle Jacob which I'm told he also wrote when I asked him to do so on this subject, and the one from Mr. Camin will be able to produce some positive effect, and to move our said uncle to execute the suggestion that I made to him.
If he truly likes these two girls he must not create any more difficulties unless in doing so he wishes to ensure forever that they will have few assets while appearing before everyone that what he did was only out of a pure motive and charity. It's astonishing that he didn't do the right thing which would have spared his reputation. I declare to you as before God that I would have accepted the guardianship if it weren't for all the legal hassles which scare me, and which I mentioned to you in my previous letter. You told me that someone said to you that I will not expose myself to any risks while others have said the opposite to us. In all this uncertainty, in good faith would you want me to embrace a bad proposition? But say I who has quite a goodly number of children and who isn't exactly blessed with good fortune, in truth there is cruelty in this process and it would be taking me by the throat to force me to do such a thing [ie, accept the responsibility of guardianship]. What I propose is a hundred thousand times safer. There is no comparison.
What concerns my uncle is whether there is a guardian or not, provided that these monies are secure and that he is discharged. Mr. Camin and I told him that if he decides to do what we ask of him, that he takes the trouble to give us sufficient notice so that we could make the necessary assurances with all the possible precautions because he has few good intentions and he must be cornered. This we will learn over time.
I received a letter from my sister Marie Oursel by which she tells me that our uncle Jacob proposes to send him a part of the lace to New York, but since his trade doesn't extend that far, she asked me to write you to see if you you wouldn't mind giving it a try by sending some of it over there at your expense. If so, she offers you her services with which I hope you will be satisfied and charged only at the current price. If you accept her proposition, she resides at Le Havre. I would be most happy to assist you. I would do it wholeheartedly since one cannot be more sincerely than I am...
11 March 1698
Monsieur Francois de la Chambre
I have received the honor of your letter of the 10/20 [sent/received] December. I am most obliged for the trouble that you took in forwarding my letters to our uncle Daniel Crommelin and for your kindness in recommending to him my concerns which soon will be those of my two nieces. I have since received one of his letters but far from granting me what I asked him for, he raises so many difficulties and splits into so many detours and dead-ends that even the boldest trickster wouldn't be able to get away with it. I replied to him by parrying all his blows but I must admit that it takes great patience. However, since this is thrust upon me it is quite necessary in order to resolve this matter.
Our uncle Jacob, Pierre Testart, and others whom I have appealed for assistance have written him strongly about it. I appeal to you earnestly to add to that number by continuing to give me your support. I duly told him what you wrote me saying that the best thing to do would be to have him send the money off in eight parts and then to undertake the necessary insurances given sufficient notice in advance. This would be the way to do the thing in complete safety.
I implore you to take care of the enclosure and to send it in the most prompt and secure fashion possible. There is also one from Mr. Camin. I greet you wholeheartedly and am...
21 March 1698
Monsieur Pierre Testart
Since your letters reach me via Rotterdam and that one neglects or forgets to send them to me immediately, this is the reason why I'm so long in responding to you. Your second letter gave me a lot of satisfaction. Not so with the last one because you ask for things which don't depend on me alone thus I find difficulties there.
I believed that you no longer thought of that and that my reasons satisfied you. Mr. Camin and I have written to our uncle Daniel and told him that, provided he gives us notice in time, we will take care to have the necessary insurances in place with all the precautions imagineable and that we would enlist only choice people, and that for the return he must send the first one of eight instalments where there is rather a saving than a loss.
I affirm by all the earth that if our uncle has the least good intention, he must urgently execute what we ask for without taking further advantage of so many formalities which do him no honor. Is it possible that he won't return anything? What we propose to him is very safe and he has nothing to fear for humanitarianism itself speaks. I find no more risks to him than when I send you money via our boatman who carries it every week to your place. All those who I've seen share my sentiments that my uncle prefers to hold at risk in another world the assets of two poor children under the pretext of vain formalities rather than remitting it to this country in safety. This is something which he should have done with pleasure and without even having to be asked. I wish with all my heart that he had never gotten mixed up in this affair!
One is most unfortunate to die in that country if all those who have heirs in Europe have as much trouble in withdrawing their effects, but I'm quite persuaded that not everyone behaves as my uncle does. Besides, our said uncle has behaved in such an unusual manner in this affair that I dare not trust him and what you propose to me seems like a disagreeable and troublesome continuation. I'm sure that if I spoke to you only for a quarter of an hour face-to-face, you would approve my reasons. You are too just and equitable not to do it. I propose to my uncle a guarantee on the province of Holland with you as the intermediary for his discharge, and to take every precaution imagineable in dealing with the risks of the sea. I don't know what he can find to criticize in that. If he doesn't want to do anything, it's an indication that he simply doesn't want to render justice. Everyone is in agreement on that score.
Monsieur Camin promised me that he will write you in accordance with what I have written you. I bid you only to continue in your care and your pains towards our uncle and to make him aware of my reasons. I take God as my witness that I have been frank in this matter and am without any deviousness. I hope that you will have the same good will over there. I am entirely...
27 March 1698
Mademoiselle Marie Oursel
My wife gave birth on the 14th of this month to a boy. We had never wished so much for your arrival but since that couldn't be done and since by your last letter of 26 February you don't even know when you will be able to obtain your passport and even less when you will be able to leave, we exercised the privilege that you gave us. The child was presented for baptism on Sunday last by the godfather, your cousin Torin, and in your name by our niece Manon Camin.
The agreeable manner in which you excused yourself speaks well of your feelings. With regards to the name it was necessary to give him, it doesn't leave us embarrassed. The cousin came up with it and wished to follow your sentiments, therefore not knowing what our plans were he remembered when our mother was to be the godmother of our little Catin. She said to me that if I ever again have a boy she wished him to be named after my father. Thus we have named him Francois. I hope this name will be agreeable to you since it is only meant to conform to the wishes of our mother. If it had been a girl my wife would have wished for a Mariane, a name composed from yours and that of her mother.
[The fact that their late older brother, Francois de Coninck, was a wastral who caused the family enormous grief would have left a bitter taste with Marie Oursel regarding the decision to name the new born baby 'Francois'.]
Now we have six children, three of one kind and 3 of the other. They are all doing well and have a good appetite. Here is the order of their arrival: Frederic, Mayon, Jean, Catin, Ester, Francois. I admit that this large number begins to astonish me, especially being also so little favored in the way of goods and fortune as I am, and living in a hard century as this one is, so full of injustices at that! It isn't necessary to 'throw out the sleeve after the vest' as one says. It is better to rest on providence while remaining an honest man and doing one's best. I think this is the best path that one can take.
Besides, my dear sister, although you were not present here at the ceremony, my wife and I thank you from the bottom of our heart and we are as obliged to you as though you had been in attendance. The good wishes and your prompt willingness to leave which you expressed on this occasion persuades us that if you were not able to be here in person, at least you would be present in heart and affection. Don't neglect to obtain your passport and I hope that one way or the other we will see you in a little while. One can wish for this no more than we do.
Having had occasion to write to cousin Pierre Testart, I told him what you wrote me touching the sending of a portion of lace to New York and I offered him your services. He replied but didn't say anything about this item. With regard to the estate of our grandmother [Rachel Tacquelet] and the part where some gets returned to others in this country, I am...
scandalized by the response that our uncle Jacob gave you. There are those who will be of the pretext which he gave without faith or law and who are delighted to seize for themselves the goods of others. I would have wished there were not so many of them. It is necessary to say also if he finds besides me other heirs who are in the same situation including Mr. Louis and Mr. de la Chambre.
If you do not come soon, please inform me if the Garden beyond the bridge [their rental cottages at Rouen] is being maintained and whether some are occupied. I pray you also to remind your father for a copy of the will which I wrote you about. He must surely have it. My wife is doing well, thanks be to God. She greets you affectionately and my other sisters also. I do likewise and am perfectly...
23 June 1698
Monsieur Louis de Coninck
One of my friends who arrived back from Antwerp a short time ago reported that you have entered into the state of matrimony. Having since seen one of your letters that confirms to us the same thing, I believe I mustn't defer the opportunity to congratulate you and to mention that I participate much in your joy. In fact I have no greater pleasure than learning that one has put himself in a situation whereby one's family can be increased. I wish not only that you have a plenteous family, but that you don't do as cousin Jacob did by having only girls. This branch of the family would otherwise swell up like noodles. I wish you therefore for your debut a big and productive boy to be followed by several others of one or the other sex.
Provided that you act on this item as I do, and that you follow in the footsteps of my uncle, your father, the family will, far from diminishing, increase considerably. I wish you besides a good long life with my dear relative, your new spouse, accompanied by all manner of prosperity, temporal and spiritual. I don't doubt that she is a person of merit. You have too fine a taste to do otherwise. I take the liberty to pray she grants me the honor of her friendship, and you, my dear relative, I ask for the continuation of yours. As for me, I will do my utmost to show you that one can be no more perfectly than I am...
23 September 1698
Monsieur Daniel de la Chambre - [This is likely Marie Crommelin's son, Daniel de la Chambre, who went to Ireland. He had two other brothers, Jean (who settled in London with his wife and children) and Francois (the single businessman in London who forwarded Frederic's letters to Daniel Crommelin in New York). There were two sisters, Marie and Anne, who were already deceased by this time. This Daniel de la Chambre died single at an old age in Ireland where he had been living on a pension from his father. (ref. Scheffer p. 167).]
I received with pleasure the honor of your letter. I was even happier since it appears in this letter than you are 'kloek en gesond' ['fit as a fiddle']. An indication of that is that you hope to cross the sea to come and live in these regions of Belgium and that you might even have the intention to come and make your residence in our fine city.
For this to happen you wish in advance to acquire information about what rental accommodation you could expect here and how much one must have for an honest pension. I would say according to your desires that a man of your merit would need a sum of about f300. However, I believe that you could find a place for around f250 which you would find reasonably good. This is about all I can tell you on this subject. Allow me only to mention that I'm surprised that you would choose a sparse place such as this to come and stay - you who are accustomed to good living. I fear that you might find it boring since you would have almost no company to see.
As for me, I admit that without my work here, and if I wasn't forced by various other considerations, I would never have been able to grow accustomed to life here. I can best compare this city to Medenblick. One could acquire possessions to further justify being here although it depends on what resolutions you took. If you judge me capable of rendering service to you, I would undertake that wholeheartedly and by this show you that I am truly... I take the liberty to greet my cousins, your brothers, not forgetting the older generation of the family.
20 January 1699
Mademoiselle Marie Oursel
Thank you mademoiselle, my dear sister, for your good wishes that you sent me upon the new year. God willing that by His grace He gives you his protection. May He bless and abundantly cause you to prosper in all that you undertake. I extend the same wishes to my other two sisters and pray that all three of you don't forget us, but...
on the contrary that you continue in your friendship toward us. Be assured that I will always have a great deal of esteem and affection for you.
We learned with immense sorrow about the redoubling of the persecution. It's what we have to expect. The zeal of our enemies is too furious in order not to push things to the extreme. Persecution is going on in various places within the kingdom in a way that would make the hardiest people tremble. You will have learned perhaps how inhumanely a number of our poor brothers were treated who had gone to the 'orange' [ie. aligned themselves with the Protestant king of Holland, William of Orange]. They were hunted down upon their return like hunters after ferocious beasts. One part was killed and wounded while those who had the misfortune to be captured, the men were condemned and quickly taken to the galleys [to become slave oarsmen in the French warships] while the women were shaved and imprisoned. Also the poor Mr. Brousson was executed at Montpellier. He was a good and true pastor who I had the honor to know. He lived at The Hague. He suffered martyrdom with admirable steadfastness and courage. Naturally the Messieurs les Estats gave his widow a pension of f1000. Furthermore, my dear sister, if God allows that some evil hasn't already overtaken you yourself, this isn't to say that it can't happen. You must soon regard this as a warning from heaven. The scriptures are clear about this. 'When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.' (Matthew 10:23).
I have finally received a copy of the will of our late brother Oursel. More and more it reaffirms my belief that Mr. Crommelin is a dishonest man. The copy he sent doesn't conform to the orginal. There's at least one clause that has been completely omitted. Now I have clearer proof for my friends here than by a letter I received from him 4 years ago which I still have in my possession. But as it so often happens, the more often one tries to cheat, the more often he falls into his own trap. Above all, it's important to have a good memory! The aforementioned will makes no sense without the clause that has been omitted, but he did it in order to give it some color with the intention of keeping the money that he has in his possession. This, however, is without any appearance of reason because it only names him simply as the executor together with two other men. But he knew that by excluding them in the practical instructions, he would become the sole master. I wrote him from time to time but received no response. I learned only that he's doing poorly in his affairs and that he's reduced to working a plot of land. He doesn't have anything that I didn't foresee a long time ago because I know his nature down to the marrow. Meanwhile we have our nieces reduced to the goodwill of their relatives. I consider this cruel. I embrace you and am entirely...
19 February 1699
Monsieur Pierre Testart
Some time ago Mr. Camin told me that you wrote him saying that you had received a letter from our uncle Daniel in which it seems there were new proposals. However, you are too intelligent not to see that this was merely a ploy to gain time. For what could interest so many people in this matter without knowing if they would want to get themselves involved in it or not? I'm convinced that if one accorded him his request that he would blow up his sleeve and that he would quickly go looking for another quarrel. What he's done is only to glamorize his affairs and make him look like a man of integrity although he's quite less than that!
I asked him numerous times to give us above all a guarantee that he will effectively take charge of the effects in question for he has used all the evasive twists and turns. Then to display integrity is so uncharacteristic of him in the whole course of this matter that he has given one just cause to be on guard over his pretended promises. But to what good is all this twisting, and what security does he wish to gain after all that I told him and what you have written about it? We don't want to have the money in our hands but only for you to be the depositor to place it wherever you think appropriate. As for the risks of the sea, Mr. Camin and I have written him that he must give us sufficient notice provided that all is in order and then we will take care of the insurance with the utmost exactitude, taking only the choicest people for this issue.
What assurance does he hope to gain? Any reasonable man would not consent to it without first amusing himself by looking for noon at 14 hours and wishing to embarrass people in an affair where they will obviously refuse to participate. All this is a plan to gain ground in order to never be rid of the problem. It is a strange thing when a simple executor of a will muddles up such things without any authority by not following instructions which he and the said will conveys. According to what he told me, he must remit the money into the hands...
of my mother. But she prayed that it be handed over to Mr. Camin and me. Nevertheless he doesn't want to do anything although he had given us hope that he would do it after there was peace. It's astonishing that so much writing had to take place for something so just and which even mentions her. He simply has no compassion or integrity in these proceedings. Furthermore, since the appeals and exhortations have done nothing up to the present time to change his attitude, I am obliged to change tactics and avail myself of the occasion when one of my friends offered to give me the acquaintance of one of the principals of New York. I'll send him a proxy to follow up on this matter in order to expedite it and put things right. My conscience obliges me to do this, my mother having laid it on my heart while dying. However, though it's good for some to come to the end of their extremities, I would sooner have you exhort our uncle once more when you write him to give us the satisfaction that we demand without looking for any more advantages through new complications. In so doing you will oblige me a lot and this properly is the object of this present letter.
I wrote twice last year to New York but have received no response even though I know that my letters were received. However, I'm not giving up and I'm preparing another epistle to be sent via Mr. de la Chambre. If I get no response it means he has nothing good to say to me and that I must brace myself for any eventuality while he continues to assume a certain air as though he's ignorant of the state of things. Please assist me once more through your appeals and believe that I am truly...